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Looking to fish away from boaters

As the pleasure boat season enters wide open throttle, more fishermen and ladies are heading toward the less crowded river lakes and bottomland swamp lakes.

There are no boat roads on places like Turkey Creek, so there will be no pleasure boats on the creek. Few people ski and play in the live oxbow lakes we call Old Rivers, so that gives the fishing people another escape from the crowded lakes.

A couple of years ago, Turkey Creek’s water level was drawn down to the channels after an invasive plant was found. This cancer of the water world is called giant salvinia or kariba weed and, if left alone, it would have been detrimental to fish population on this beautiful cypress filled reservoir.

Giant salvinia is just another negative to add to a long list of problems we are having with our waters. It is a free floating plant that does not attach to the lake’s bottom soil, but instead remains buoyant on the surface of a body of water.

Like the invasive silver and big head carp that are hurting the game fish and rough fish populations in our rivers and river lakes, this vegetation was introduced to our waters by mistake. It is like the cancer of the water. Huge mats of salvinia grow fast, shade the lakes surface which lowers the oxygen content.

Normally, fish are attracted to aquatic vegetation such as coon tail moss and hydrilla, but the fish do not like this stuff.

My question is how it got into the United States from Brazil? Native to southeastern Brazil, this water fern was probably initially spread to different parts of the world by the aquarium and garden-pond trade.

It can be spread accidentally from site to site by boaters when it hangs on boat trailers.

Since giant salvinia can double its numbers in as little as two to 10 days and cover the entire surface of a body of water, even extremely small fragments of the plant can rapidly alter our lakes and waterways, potentially making them unusable for future recreation.

The good news is Turkey Creek is the only body of water within an hour drive of here that I know of that has a problem with giant salvinia. Chemicals obviously did not work, so a lake drawdown is the only way I have heard of to control it.

The last I heard, none has been spotted in Turkey Creek since the lake filled back up. The fishing on the creek is beginning to get back to normal. So the fishermen and ladies are seeking places where the pleasure boats do not go.

The normal seasonal deal is just to cross the levee and fish the live oxbow lakes when the landlocked lakes get crowded. The Mississippi River is still connected to these waters thus the reason I call them “live” oxbows, which were actually river bends decades ago.

These lakes fluctuate with the rise and fall of the big river. The river dropped to about 34 feet which is a good stage for bream, fair for perch and fair for bass. I was just beginning to hear a few good fishing reports before the recent rise came downriver from all the rain upriver.

Today’s river stage at Natchez should be nearly 39 feet. It looks like the river will crest at about 41 feet. We should see a slow fall after that which will bring the level back down to a fishable stage for the Old Rivers. Last year, thousands if not millions of silver and bighead carp really messed the Old River fishing up.

I have been running the Mississippi River backwaters trying to determine if these nasty non-native fish are going to be bad this year. The silver carp are those jumping fish you see on television and on the internet.

They are totally freaked out by outboard engine noise and will jump as high as 10 to 12 feet out of the water making them dangerous to boaters. I had a 20- to 30-pound silver carp jump in front of my boat a couple weeks ago. It came down right past my head grazing me. Had that big fish hit me and being so far from anywhere, that would have been really bad.

At these higher water levels, it is hard to say if we will have a worse problem than last year. The answer to that is hopefully not, but probably so.


Eddie Roberts writes a weekly fishing column for The Democrat. He can be reached at fishingwitheddie@bellsouth.net.